Image provided courtesy of the Indianapolis Star.

As novel coronavirus spreads around the world, lives are changing with increasing frequency and severity. Still, pets get sick, dogs eat things they shouldn’t eat, and animal hospitals continue to be an essential service. If you find yourself needing to visit the veterinarian in the next few months, you may be wondering how to safely transport your pet to the animal hospital. Below, we’ve outlined the benefits and disadvantages of several transportation options, depending on where you live, transit accessibility, and budget.  

Drive Your Pet to the Hospital  

As always, driving your pet to the animal hospital is the safest option. You nearly eliminate the risk of exposing yourself or others to the virus, and you can ride in the comfort of your own vehicle. If you have the resources, this is the best way to safely transport your pet to the vet. If you have a close friend or family member who owns a car, consider asking them for a ride or to borrow the vehicle for a few hours.  

Rideshare Options and Public Transportation 

Uber and Lyft are still widely available transportation options in urban areas, but you’ll want to take additional precautions when getting into a car. If you have the equipment, wear a mask and gloves, then wash your hands thoroughly both before and after stepping into the vehicle. However, pet parents should be prepared to spend a bit more money than usual on a rideshare car. As fewer drivers are on the roads, there is an increased demand for private transportation, even though overall rides are down across the country. That means the drivers currently out can command a slightly higher price, as calculated by the Uber or Lyft algorithm. Additionally, if you take a rideshare car to the animal hospital, it is important to follow typical pet etiquette, such as contacting the driver prior to pickup and offering to cancel the ride if they are uncomfortable with animals in the care.  

Public transportation can be another option for pet parents low on cash or other options. If your pet is small enough to ride in a carry-on container, you can easily bring them aboard a bus or train. These services are seeing all-time low ridership numbers, which means you won’t have a problem staying at least six feet apart from other customers. As always, though, you should thoroughly clean your hands and your pet’s cage after riding, and consider wearing a mask and gloves to protect yourself and others. 

Call the Hospital to Request Transportation 

While uncommon, some animal hospitals are providing pick-up and drop-off services to clients in some parts of the country. This can be a safe and convenient method of getting your pup to and from the hospital for treatment. To see if your hospital is providing this service, call ahead before scheduling an appointment. In most cases, this service has been offered in dense urban centers, where most pet parents won’t have access to a personal vehicle.  

Understanding Your Pet’s Health 

The coronavirus outbreak has changed most of our lives, most drastically impacting the way we spend our time. Many people are now working from home and adapting to more flexible schedules. As stay-at-home orders and social distancing practices continue through the spring, some pet parents might see this as an opportunity to cross some items off their to-do lists. If you find yourself wanting to schedule Fido or Fluffy’s annual vet visit, however, we encourage you to hold off. 

In most states, animal hospitals are designated as “essential,” which means their employees will continue to provide necessary services to pet parents in need. However, most hospitals will only be completing emergency exams and surgeries, pushing elective surgeries and general check-ups later into the year. If, however, your veterinarian is continuing to see regular patients, and you’ve been meaning to get your pup in for their annual physical, stop to think about your options. Bringing your pet for an unnecessary visit has the potential to expose either yourself or the staff to the novel coronavirus. To that end, many animal hospitals, like those dealing with COVID-19, are running extremely low on personal protective equipment, like gloves and masks. The fewer reasons they have to use this equipment, the more safety they ensure when they actually need it.  

Of course, if your dog or cat is in danger – whether they’ve ingested something, aren’t behaving normally, or have an otherwise unusual symptom – go to the veterinarian. If you’re trying to schedule a dental appointment, think about holding off for a few months.